Usually seen as incompatible, forests and farms are integrated by Buddhist environmental activists in Thailand. Monks engaged in environmental conservation see the conditions of farmers’ lives as related to how they treat the forests surrounding their farms. If farmers seek their livelihood through cash-cropping and contract farming, they see the forest as a material resource in terms of land for future farms. This attitude contributes to the rapid deforestation occurring across northern Thailand’s mountainous region and a cycle of environmental degradation and economic struggle. Buddhist monks work with non-governmental organizations and sometimes state agents to encourage farmers to shift to integrated agriculture, growing a mix of food crops and raising animals mimicking ecological relations. The monks teach that the forest is part of this eco-system, as it supplies water and other natural resources and must be protected. This paper examines the work of Phrakhru Somkit Jaranathammo, a monk in Nan Province, Thailand, who promotes dhammic agriculture and engages a new interpretation of Right Livelihood, a basic Buddhist principle, to support and protect the well-being of both the forest and farmers.
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